Monday, May 20, 2019

Compassion and good will
trump all else in Montoursville

Apropos of nothing, and certainly apropos of no specific event that might be happening in any certain place today, I wanted to share, proudly, this letter that Dad received 44 years ago, when we were living on Mulberry Street in Montoursville, Pennsylvania. It speaks greatly to his fine character and the overall fine character of that small town I grew up in.

The letter, dated October 2, 1975, is from David L. Stroehmann, president of the board of directors of Hope Enterprises, Inc., in adjacent Williamsport. (Hope, founded in 1952, still exists and does much great work in northcentral Pennsylvania.) Here is the full text of the letter Stroehmann wrote to my father, John Alan Otto:
Recently I had the opportunity to read your letter in our local newspaper. It was most gratifying to know that people with your outlook are willing to take a stand for others.

As you are probably aware, the situation of developing a residential home for children on Tule Street, or of finding an alternate residence for the children whom we hope to serve, is not solved at present. As we seek to find a solution, your help and encouragement are greatly appreciated. Your letter, as well as others, provides us with the knowledge that most residents of the area, and especially residents of Montoursville, are behind the project.

Certainly it has been our experience that group homes which provide a family environment are greatly enhancing to the development of handicapped individuals who live there, as well as to those associated with them.

I wish to thank you sincerely on behalf of the Board of Directors, staff and children we serve for your positive comments. Be assured that we will not give up trying to provide residential programs for our children and adults.
Acceptance. Equality. Inclusion. Good will. Charity. Compassion. Standing up for those who need help or are underrepresented. ... Those are the qualities of the small-town America I was raised in and believe in today.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Mystery RPPC:
What is this odd building?

Most of the mystery real photo postcards on Papergreat involve people that we'll likely never be able to identify.

This one's different. It's a building. A very odd building, in my opinion.

Any ideas??

This one's an Artura postcard that has never been written on. According to, it dates to between 1908 and 1924 (based on the design of the stamp box on the back).

Beyond that, we have absolutely nothing to go. If you have any ideas, please leave them in the commments or email me at chrisottopa (at), because I'd love to know where this building was and what it was used for.

Book cover: "Haunted Britain"

Mom loved "true-story" ghost books. She was in her early 20s in the early 1970s and had a fair collection of the likes of Hans Holzer and Susy Smith paperbacks. She was also fascinated with the United Kingdom, perhaps the ghostiest place of all, and had several books related to the ghosts and folklore of its various haunted grounds. She held onto these books long enough for me to discover — and become equally fascinated by — them in the late 1970s and early 1980s. One that I especially loved, partly for the spooky photos, was this volume. So I tracked down my own copy earlier this decade.

  • Title: Haunted Britain
  • Author: Antony D. Hippisley Coxe
  • Is that the most British name ever on Papergreat? Probably
  • What else did he write? Performance and Politics in Popular Drama; Classical And Circus High School; A Book About Smuggling in the West Country, 1700-1850; and — I kid you not — The Great Book of Sausages.1
  • Photographer: Robert Estall
  • House editor: Penelope Miller
  • Designer: George Sharp
  • Cartographer: John R. Flower
  • Indexer: Gerry Miller
  • Publisher: Pan Books Ltd.
  • Publication year: 1975 (Book was originally published in 1973 by Hutchinson & Co. I believe that's a hardcover.)
  • Original prices: £1.50 in the United Kingdom, $4.30 in Australia, $4.10 in New Zealand, $5.95 in Canada. (£1.50 in 1975 is the equivalent to about £14.88 today, which is equivalent to about $18.92.)
  • Pages: 201 (plus numerous maps after the final numbered page)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Front cover blurb: "A guide to the supernatural in England, Scotland and Wales"
  • Back cover blurb: "A unique collection of the uncanny and astonishing phenomena that may be found in haunted Britain."
  • Title page blurb: "A guide to the supernatural sites frequented by ghosts, witches, poltergeists and other mysterious beings"
  • Dedication: For Araminta remembering the occasional alarums and many excursions we have shared
  • First sentence of preface: This is a guidebook to places about which people hold some strange belief.
  • First sentence of book proper: The Duchy is as packed full of beliefs as a can is of Cornish pilchards.
  • What's a pilchard: "A small, edible, commercially valuable marine fish of the herring family."
  • So, a sardine? Basically.
  • Last sentence: The Colstoun Pear is supposed to keep the family lands intact and is still in the Broun-Lindsay family who alone can lay eyes on it.
  • Random sentence from the middle: Prehistoric ghosts are rare, but many people, including a highly respected archaeologist, have seen the Bronze Age horseman who haunts these parts.
  • Goodreads rating: 4.10 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Goodreads review: In 2016, Jonathan Farley called the book "an entertaining gazetteer of ghosts around Britain."
  • Amazon rating: 5.0 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2014, Courtney wrote: "Instead of elaborating on the stories or offering theories about the supernatural, the book offers concise, matter-of-fact little snippets; it's arranged as the usual travel guide, region by region, with suggestions for day drives. ... Whether you're planning a trip to England in your daydreams or for real, you'll love browsing this book."

But wait, there's more

As a kid, I loved the visual aspects of this book. It had a system of symbols to describe each site. And the photograpy — some original and some from archives — was creepy and unsettling. Here are some peeks...

Hey, it's the ghost of Raynham Hall!

Mom and I loved this one. The caption states: "Spot the ghosts in this photograph taken by a former employee at Downe Court Manor. According to the owner, eleven phantoms are visible: Charles Darwin, a blackamoor in a three-cornered hat, a Cavalier, a Miss Smith, half a dozen faces, and a girl with a long plait.

Sausage footnote
1. The Great Book of Sausages does not have great reviews. Here are some from Amazon:
  • Under-cooked Book
  • What's not in this book? Any useful information on making or cooking sausages.
  • This was by far the biggest waste of my time and money that I have ever ordered for myself. This isn't the great book of anything.
  • The not-so-great sausage book

Friday, May 17, 2019

Farewell to a book

Earlier this week, I went to put some books into a Little Free Library that's two blocks from my workplace in Lancaster. It's a former newspaper vending machine that's been converted into a library, which is kind of cool. What's not cool is that, when I opened it up, I found that it had been stuffed, willy-nilly, with books. Being smashed and jumbled into such a small space was not good for the books ... and one of them did not survive the traumatic event.

So I spent a few minutes tidying up the library, adding my books and putting everything into some order for the next person who might come along.

I set the mangled book aside, figuring I would just deposit it into a trash can.

Then I looked at it.

What a beauty it had once been! I knew I had to document it here — give it a proper farewell — before sending it off to its landfill or incinerator fate.

Much of the dust jacket was still intact. Here's a look...

The book was Mystery of the Third Mine, written by Robert W. Lowndes and published in 1953 by The John C. Winston Company. The glorious jacket was designed by Kenneth Fagg. The book itself has mixed reviews, but David Hann, reviewing it on Amazon in 2006, liked it and noted: "I read this novel as a boy and later as an adult because I wanted to read it once more before giving it to a nephew. The third mine of the title is on an asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. What I found fun and interesting about the book is how Robert Lowndes carried contemporary life styles, crime, music, and baseball, into the future."

There's another piece of great artwork inside: the endpapers by Alex Schomburg.

How could you not fall in love with books upon opening Mystery of the Third Mine and seeing that? As a kid in the 1950s, sure, but really as a kid in any era. Be kind to your old books, folks. They don't make 'em like they used to.

* * *

Speaking of Little Free Library, today is the nonprofit's 10th anniversary, and it's holding a big event today through Sunday. Here are the details:
May 17 is Little Free Library’s nonprofit birthday and this year, it also marks 10 years of Little Free Libraries! We invite you and book-lovers everywhere to celebrate this big moment by participating in The Big Share the weekend of May 17 – 19. It’s simple, here’s how:

Step 1: Stop by a Little Free Library May 17 – 19 and share a book.

Step 2: Take a photo of your visit.

Step 3: Tell us you participated! Share your photo with #LFL10 on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. If you prefer not to share a photo, click the participation button on our Big Share counter (available on this page starting May 17).

Step 4: Rinse and repeat! You don’t have to stop at just one Little Library, visit several! You get bonus points if you share a photo on social with #LFL10, because you’ll be entered to win a $20 e-gift card to Little Free Library’s online store.

We’ll be watching for your photos and sharing them on our website and social media. Check out the FREE 10th Anniversary bookmark and sticker designs below, too.

We’re excited to have you join us for The Big Share! Please help spread the word by asking your friends and family to join the fun, or by inviting them to The Big Share Facebook Event. Learn more about our year-long 10th Anniversary Celebration.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

When the USA made cool things like chicken drink coasters

Back when we truly knew how to party, we had these jazzy coasters to place our beverages upon. They were sold by the Rust Craft Greeting Card Company, which has quite the history — it involves a book store, the production of (possibly) the first Christmas card, TV and radio stations and, starting in 1980, a spiral of being subsumed by other companies as Rust Craft wound down and eventually went out of business.

I have no idea what year these 30-cent chicken coasters were sold. My best guess would be between 1965 and 1975. If we split the difference and assume 1970, that 30-cent cost equates to about $2 today, which is a lot for 12 coasters. As we see from the packaging, they were "styled by Brownie" and were touted for being drip-proof. The additional text on the back states:

"Soft and absorbent ...
wax backed for protection
designed for the
discriminating hostess...

It also tells us that these were made in the United States and that other products from Rust Craft at the time included plates, cups, napkins, table covers and party centerpieces. I'm sure those were also for the "discriminating hostess." Despite the poultry theme, these were for Serious Martini Conversations, not Timmy's Kool-Aid-Soaked Birthday Bash.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Mystery RPPC: Girl with bear

This mystery real photo postcard was picked up last weekend, when Ashar and I toured some Dover-area yard sales, mostly in search of cassette tapes for his boombox. To be clear, you don't see many postcards this old at yard sales any more, so of course I bought a few (for just 50 cents apiece!). I'll share them over the coming days and weeks.

There's no writing on this card and it was never mailed. The AZO stamp box configuration indicates that it dates to the period of 1904 to 1918.

The idea of a teddy bear stems from a 1902 incident involving President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. It's a sad story that, while containing a smidgen of compassion, still involves the death of a bear, so I don't want to glorify or sanitize it too much.

The first stuffed bears were made around 1903, by Morris Michtom in the United States and the Steiff company in Germany (which had been creating stuffed toys since 1880). Michtom's were the actual "teddy bears." Given that this postcard could be as old as 1904, the little girl could be holding one of the very earliest stuffed bears, teedy or otherwise.

Want more mystery RPPCs? Start here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

10 years ago today:
A Papergreat precursor

Ten years ago today — on May 14, 2009 — I posted this image and caption on Facebook. This was when Joan and I were in the midst of our book-selling phase and had the pleasure of churning through many volumes each week to assess their sellability factor.

It was eight months before Relics (the short-lived and long-vanished first iteration of Papergreat) and 80 weeks before the first Papergreat post.

You can read more than you'd ever want to know about Papergreat's origin here. And you can read more about the "good, clean Gothic fun" of Dorothy Mackie Low's Isle for a Stranger on Goodreads.

Bonus Facebook memory: And nine years ago today on Facebook, I wrote this about Ashar: "While other students in Sarah's fourth-grade class did their 'Famous American' reports on the likes of Amelia Earhart and Jackie Robinson, Sarah chose to write about Vincent Price. Win."

Win, indeed!

Postcard: One-room Amish school near Arthur, Illinois

In August 2016, I had a unique post about the Water Garden at Rockome, a former tourist attraction in Arcola, Illinois. This undated mid-century postcard would count as a bit of a followup to that. It was produced by Genuine Natural Color Made by Dexter Press of West Nyack, New York. It was published by C.L. Bence of Mattoon, Illinois. And Bence was also the photographer.1

Here's the postcard caption:
Amish children attending 1 room school near Arthur, Illinois. The Amish people may be seen in most of the rural section near Arthur, Illinois. They are a religious sect who have retained most of the customs of their forefathers and make their living mainly by farming without aid of modern equipment.
Arthur is about 10 miles west of Arcola. Its Amish community was founded in the 1860s. Wikipedia adds: "The village of Arthur characterizes itself on its website as an Amish-friendly community, with more than 4,000 'Plain People' living in the town and surrounding rural townships. The Amish settlement near Arthur was founded in 1864 and had 30 church districts with about 150 people per district in 2013. Arthur community was the 8th largest Amish settlement in the world with 4,410, as of 2017."

The website Amish Illinois says this about current education in the Arthur area:
"The Amish schools around the central Illinois area are usually one or two room rural schools and they are staffed with their own teachers. These teachers are usually Amish men or women who have completed eighth grade.

"Amish children start school at the age of six and attend elementary school through their eighth grade. The Amish children walk, ride bicycles, or drive a horse and buggy to school. Each school is overseen by trustees to make up a board and records are kept for state inspection. The Amish schools are funded by the church districts. The school building have wood or gas stoves and no electricity. The Amish schools are built to use natural lighting.

"In school the Amish children learn English, reading, spelling, and penmanship. In arithmetic the Amish are taught addition, subtraction, multiplication, decimals, division, and weights and measurements to use in everyday life. All books that are used in the Amish schools are selected by the trustees.

"Amish schools stress community and accuracy rather than speed. Also, honesty, love, and cooperation are regarded highly by the Amish in education. The older Amish children help out the younger children in the shared classrooms. Amish families in the school district rotate preparing a hot lunch for the students."
So life at the Arthur-area schools probably isn't much different than it was when this photograph was taken a half-century or more ago.

1. Here's a small news item from the April 2, 1963, edition of the Journal Gazette of Mattoon, Illinois:
"C.L. Bence, 12 Noyes Court, has been awarded a wristwatch as a prize in the Dexter Bonanza Contest sponsored by Dexter Press, Inc., for color photographer-distributors. This was the first nationwide sales contest sponsored by Dexter Press, which prints postcards, color brochures and stationery."